The Bulb Order is Away!

The potager exterior border last spring.

Last spring seems so far away, when our hopes that the virus would fade away in a few weeks felt possible. The earth was filled with energy and bird song, and seeds were pressed into the soil with visions of the crops that are in fact being harvested today. Every new flower that burst forth was greeted with excitement, notes and photos were taken and for some reason, the 2020 Spring seemed more colorful, more special, more precious than many in the past.

The bulb catalogs arrived weeks ago, and at first were put aside. How can I spend money on bulbs when people are hungry, or losing their jobs? Why should I plant all those bulbs when only I will see them (Yes, I have the “it’s going to be a long time before this is over, …if ever” view)? And then I thought, if everyone thinks as I do then all the bulb farmers will go under. I’m sure lots of the big institutions, cities, private and public gardens will not have the funding for their normal orders, since they had so little income this year, and corporations will not have their normal profits to contribute to good causes. Additionally, many individual gardeners may be forced, or choose to cut back on expenses. I thought back to all the small bulb farmers I saw in Holland, and some I’ve visited here in the States. They need support, too, just like all the other small businesses. And, I’m getting old. I may not be able to plant a lot of fall bulbs someday, so while I can still do it, I think I really want to! So, the catalogs were pulled from the stack and studied.

For years, crocus “Cream Beauty” has been the first of the bulbs to bloom here. I do love them, but I want more purple and white in the gardens, so the first item on the order were these early species crocus, a blend called “Vernal Jewels.” They’ll just go here and there in places where they will be noticed early on, but not in the Front Island where the squirrels dwell and forage!

Next were “Blue Magic” muscari. Yes, I know many people consider them almost a weed, but I’ve had some for years in the Blue Garden, and they’ve barely spread. There’s some pale blue “Valerie Finnis” in the potager’s exterior border, but a brighter blue and more of it is needed, so hopefully “Blue Magic” will do the trick.

Nothing unusual, but I love this bright, bright blue!
Tang Dynasty tulips from ColorBlends

Overall, I was very happy with last year’s tulip selections. You can revisit that post here. However, I’ve made a few changes based on my notes and photo reviews. First of all, the tulip order is about the same as last year: “Tang Dynasty,” a blend of white, yellow and orange tulips bloomed early in the Deck Garden, which I pass every day on my way to the potager. They lasted a long time, except I needed more.

“Cretaceous” tulip was a favorite!

However, the peony-flowered tulip above was part of a blend called “Threedom” and I wasn’t thrilled with the other two members of the group, so this year “Cretaceous” was ordered separately, and lots more of them. They’ll go in the potager’s exterior border and the Front Garden.

Tulip “Prince Armin”

Tulip “King’s Orange” was dropped this year, only because it is really similar to “Temple’s Favorite” and I wanted something a bit lighter in color, which “Prince Armin” will provide. I love it’s vertical striping and big flowers. And, this interesting bi-color “Orange Marmalade” was added to provide more bloom in mid-to-late May. I had a similar one a few year’s ago called “The Artist,” and one clump of those still come back in the Front Garden. Hopefully, these will as well.

Tulip “Orange Marmalade”

A few years ago, I planted a very few T. praestans “Shogun.” If you look at the very top photo of this post you’ll see a couple, but here’s a better, closer image.

Tulip “Shogun”

I really liked their smaller stature, and that they seem to return year after year, so lots more will be added this fall, in an effort to reduce the number of bulbs required each year. Some of these will go in the Addition Garden, and some in the Deck Garden edges. The short but showy double apricot “Foxy Foxtrot, the bright orange “Temple’s Favorite,” the late-blooming tall “Dordogne, and the tiny “Bright Gem” for the potager’s main path edges round out the tulip order and will go approximately where they were lat year. 700 tulips in all. In the off chance there are tulips left (since I’ve added more perennials and shrubs in the past year) leftovers can go in the Cutting Garden. I always think I’ll cut tulips for the house, but never do because they look so pretty in the beds!

My notes show that there was a glaring gap after the tulips were finished. To help provide more interest then, three alliums will be planted. The first is “White Giant” and all 10 will go in the Front Island to add some drama. They grow 3-4′ tall, with 6-8″ white globes. There will still be late daffodils, so it should be stunning.

Allium “White Giant”

Next, for the potager interior border are these pretty blue alliums.

Allium caesium

They are only 10-16″ tall, but with 4″ globes they should be outstanding and provide lots of interest until the other plants already there show color. And, lastly is “Purple Sensation.” That’s 45 allium bulbs.

Allium “Purple Sensation”

I’m giving alliums another try in the potager’s interior border. The first and only time I planted them there, most rotted over the winter. However, I’ve been working on the drainage problems, so I’ll give a few a try there, but most will go in the Front Garden, and maybe a few in the potager’s exterior border. This should help fill the gap, and also add more purple to compliment all the orange and yellow hues.

There are no daffodils on this year’s order. Actually, I need to dig and divide some of the older clumps, and several new, beautiful daffodils were added to the gardens last year that really extended their season. Instead, I’m thinking ahead to this winter, long before the spring bulbs will appear. I fear there will be little in the way of Christmas celebrations, and I suspect the winter doldrums will be worse than usual, so I’ve decided to plant some cheer indoors! First to be planted will be “Wedding Dance” white amaryllis.

Hopefully these will be timed right to bloom just after the “holidays.”

I’ve ordered three, and will start one to hopefully bloom in late December. I’m not even sure I’ll decorate much for Christmas…we’ll see how things go…but a bloom this pretty ought to help lift my spirits. The bright red ones I’ve had for years will be planted as well, but a bit earlier. Then after the whites and reds are finished,

Amaryllis “Terra Cotta Star”

this beauty will be the star that my hopes are pinned upon during the bleak month of January, into February if all goes as planned. They will be joined by part of the 25 fragrant, soft orange

Hyacinth “Gypsy Queen”

which I’ve grown before outdoors, but never forced indoors. I think 15 will be planted outside along the back sidewalk, and the other 10 will be forced, 2 or 3 at a time, to brighten my worktable. By then, seed starting in the basement will be garnering my attention and the winter aconites and crocus just might be pushing up!

So that’s how I’m hoping to battle the winter “Covid Fatigue”. Have you ordered bulbs?

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Today’s harvest

Lots of blessings here!

August is the bountiful month, when the harvest journal entries for each day nearly fill a page. The colors of produce always amaze me. Just pulling all the baskets together is a feast for the eyes. Purple beans, glossy scarlet and golden tomatoes, cream netted melons, soft green cabbage, dark green cucumbers and spikey onion tops. And after I took this photo, I realized I’d forgotten the honeydew melon and blackberries that had already gone to the refrigerator!

August is the month that I always feel there needs to be more meals per day, because I want to make so many things, but we could never eat it all. I still haven’t made gazpacho, or pesto or peas with mint, or new potatoes with chive-cheese sauce. The eggplants are ready to pick, and Dragon Tongue beans will be picked this week. I want to roast some beets and make French carrots. A vegetable lasagne has been on the list for weeks, as well as spinach quiche, but there is always something that “needs to be used first.” It’s a good problem to have, and I’m definitely not complaining, nor do we really need to eat more!

The melons have been amazing, and shared with many friends and neighbors, as well as tomatoes, peppers, cukes, beans and cabbages. In exchange we received some delicious sweet corn from our neighbors on the corner, a jar of homemade vegetable marinara sauce, cherry cobbler, and some fresh eggs from others. A good trade for all.

“Wando” peas and parsnips

August is also the month when fall crops are sown. Bed 1a has “Wando” peas (a heat tolerant variety) emerging and parsnips that will overwinter. When the peas come out, spinach will be planted and this bed will get the poly tunnel for the winter. On the right side, some old kale seed was planted, but apparently it was too old, so it will get another try with another variety. The rutabaga seeding in Bed 5d has not gone well either. They emerged very erratically and were immediately attacked by flea beetles and various other bugs and disappeared. I’ll give those another try, seeding a little thicker and giving them a row cover (even though I hate the appearance of those in my garden, I guess I hate the bugs more…and besides only I will see it if I don’t include it in a photo!)

August is also the month for elderberries, and although not as bountiful as some years due to our very late frost in May, there is plenty to make elderberry jelly (as if I need more jars of that) and immune system building elderberry syrup (there’s still 9 quarts on the shelf!) Maybe I’ll make a batch of gummies, or

Elderberry Chicken

I developed this recipe back when Elder was the Herb of the Year and put it in my fourth book, “Herbal Blessings.” It’s fast and easy, and delicious!

In a 3-4 c. microwavable container, combine 1/2 c. orange juice, 2 T. dried elderberries (or 4 T. fresh) and microwave for 2 min. Allow to sit in the microwave to keep warm until needed.

Meanwhile, finely grind 1 tsp. dried elderberries (if not available, omit) and mix with 1/4c. all purpose flour, a generous dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Reserve 1 T. of this mixture. Place the rest in a flat pan or plastic bag to coat 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs that have been rolled or pounded to and even 1/2″ thickness.

Microwave the orange juice mixture an additional minute. Keep in microwave.

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, heat 2 T. oil to frying temperature. Place floured thighs in skillet and brown on both sides. While chicken cooks, add to orange juice mixture 2 T. elderberry jelly (if not available use apple jelly) and 2 T. honey. Microwave for 2 minutes.

Mix reserved 1 T. flour mixture with 3 T. elderberry wine (or red wine, or chicken broth, or water as a last resort) and whisk until smooth. Stir into orange juice mixture and microwave for 2 min. Stir. Microwave another 2 min.

Remove thighs to serving dish. Garnish with orange slices and pour a little of the sauce over the top. Place remaining sauce in a small pitcher or creamer and serve. 4-6 servings.

And, I think I need to make Elderberry-Peach cobbler, too! Have a great week, and enjoy the garden’s bounty. Too soon, frost will end our fun!

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Six on Saturday: Aug 8

The Sidewalk planter

For this SOS in early August, six things outside the potager that are pleasing. When isolation began, I worried that since I couldn’t get out to buy plants for the planters that are on my deck and rails they would be lacking in interest and color. Instead, I just used plants that I’d started from seed and was already planning to use in the gardens, along with a couple of cannas that had wintered over in the basement, and a struggling lime sweet potato vine that had wintered in a windowsill upstairs. The vine looked pretty sad, but yielded a few cuttings that took off quickly. The one above sits on an upturned pot on the sidewalk at the entrance to the deck.

Deck pot and rail planter.

The “Golden Jubilee” agastache returned, having survived outdoors in its pot. It is a magnet for butterflies and bumblebees. The snapdragons and marigolds were excess from the potager’s exterior border. The “Twinny Peach” snapdragons have been lovely all season, but the last bout of heat caused them to take a rest. Now that we’ve had a bit of rain and ten degrees cooler, they are beginning a comeback! The rail planter got a piece of the agastache from the pot, along with some sweet alyssum leftover from the Fairy Slope plantings. I love walking out on the deck and inhaling its perfume.

My favorite sunflower this season!

Often, volunteer plants are ruthlessly weeded out in order to “stick to the plan” but this year, most were left. This lovely sunflower came up outside the potager’s fence. I love the rusty color better than all of the sunflowers I actually planted!

Hibiscus Blue River II

I grew this variety of perennial hibiscus in the Moonlight Garden at the herb farm for decades. It’s dinner plate sized blooms never fail to make me smile, and you should see them in a full moon! I should have moved it from the farm when I sold, but I didn’t and it took me 2 years to finally find a replacement, during a Garden Writer’s field trip. There’s a tomato plant on the other side of the fence behind it, and I think the hibiscus appreciates the extra watering it gets as a result.

Zinnia “Queen Lime Orange”

These zinnias were planted late, after the daffodil foliage had browned and been removed, but they are certainly making up for lost time. I love the color, and the butterflies adore zinnias of all types. I’m glad I have these, because the rabbits ate all that were planted in the Cutting Garden.

Zinnia “Profusion Double Salmon”

These low-growing zinnias (8-10″) grow along the sidewalk in the Front Garden, and have just been a blanket of color since mid-May. Normally, they are self-cleaning (meaning the finished flowers are usually covered over by new flowers, so they don’t show and therefore don’t require deadheading) but I need to do some clipping of browned flowers caused by my sprinkler getting stuck and not rotating. By the time I noticed it wasn’t moving, a streak of poor zinnias had been drowned but I think they are recovering and will look fine once I clip off the dead flowers.

That’s Six on Saturday for this week from central Indiana. If you’d like to see other gardeners’ picks just go to The Propagator who hosts this interesting meme. Better yet, pick six things that make you happy, or provoke thought from your own gardens and join in! Be safe, be happy, stay busy…and wear your mask!

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July: Monthly Review

East half of potager at July’s end

Another month has passed, as quickly as the prior ones during this gardening season. It’s apparent that the greens of spring have been toned with touches of browns and yellow, as the heat and dryness of July took it’s toll. However, it was a good month overall in the gardens because the potager’s impact in the kitchen skyrocketed with lots of new crops for the menu. It’s also a busy time, because the early crops begin coming out, and new plants and seeds go in, and harvesting takes more time. In the photo above, you can see winter squash “Orange Magic” beginning to fill the trellis that once held peas. You can’t really see it, but the wire fence sections that earlier protected the strawberry beds are now cages for the tall “Country Taste” tomatoes. Sadly, the nasturtiums surrounding those tomatoes have decided to take a sabbatical due to the heat, but after this photo was taken, I gave them a clip and a good watering with diluted fertilizer, so they will be filled with flowers again once the weather cools a bit. In the background, the melon vines are climbing to the top of the trellises. The first Melon was later this year, a “Minnesota Midget” of course, picked July 28th. It was a combination of my fault seeding late, and then the weather, but now they are coming on fast and furious. Fortunately, there’s no trouble finding them new homes, unlike the zucchini.

part of potager’s west half…

The triangle beds around the metal bee skep have had a bit of redo, as the violas breathed their last in the heat, and were replaced by small “Spicy Globe” basils. The calendulas were given a hard cut-back, so they will return later on as well. All of the tomato plants are just loaded with fruit, which is a nice contrast to early on last year. There’s already been lots of picking, with the promise of a bountiful August.

grape tomato “Juliet”

“Juliet” was one of the first “from seed” grape tomatoes. Personally, I would call it a mini “Roma” because they are large for a “grape” tomato, generally around 2″ plus long and a good 1-1 1/2″ across. But, D likes them, so I grow them in abundance. I prefer the “Sun Sugar.”

The Cutting Garden is getting crowded!

Despite the efforts of the bunnies, the Cutting Garden is filled with color. The yarrows and larkspur are nearly finished, but the celosias and zinnias are going strong, and the gomphrena and asters are pretty. I still haven’t had to cut any flowers from the official CG, because the wind keeps providing me with material.

The backside of the Front Island.

See those downed rudbeckia? They became a bouquet as soon as I saw them lying on the ground. This has been happening a lot in various exposed spots, with a variety of flowers. Do notice the “Gold Wizard” coleus, which was grown from seed to brighten up the Front Island. Next year I’ll start them a bit earlier, but I’ve been very happy with them, especially in light shade. July was also “Daylily Month.” As you can see, the daylilies are nearly finished, but they filled July with color and were a delight.

July is Blackberry Month as well!

The netting was put on the blackberries just in time, and although there aren’t buckets of berries, there are boxes, which is fine with me. Blackberry scones and roast pork with blackberry-sage sauce have been on the menu, and I think a crumble is next.

A new rose in the Deck Garden.

The roses really did well in July, although all was not “roses and cake” because July was also Japanese beetle month and tomato hornworm month and flea beetle month and squash borer month…..

For the numbers: Total harvest for July 2020 was 192.75 lbs. That’s better than incredibly wet 2019, but less than 2017 and 2018 because the weighty tomatoes and melons are coming in later than in those years. Every year is a bit different, but I’m pleased with this month’s harvest for it’s variety and quality.

The number of varieties planted in the potager rose from 82 to 109, with the bulk of the “fall” crops now in the ground. As the peas, shallots, garlic and onions came out lots of new crops could go in, which helps keep gardening interesting.

Preserving: In my stated goal of lessening the glut and using more produce from the potager fresh, I’m only preserving the items we need, rather than frantically filling all my jars with things that already fill the pantry and freezer shelves. I want to use up the past two year’s preserving, so this month only sauerkraut and dill pickles were preserved.

So that was July…record heat and dryness, but overall still good, which was a huge blessing, because with the virus continuing to spread rather than diminish, all the problems world-wide politically and economic, and all fun events cancelled, the was peace and happiness to be found in the potager.

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Feeling the change

South end Potager’s interior border

The air feels different. Mornings begin as misty, impressionist paintings with a layer of fog over the neighboring cornfield, and the sun seems to be in no hurry to make an appearance. But slowly, it emerges bringing intense heat and turning the dew into humidity that soaks T-shirts and hat bands. Oh wait, that’s me doing the soaking. Yes, it’s hot. The plants feel it, too, that change in the air. The sunflowers that were so exuberant early in the month are hanging their petal-less heads, too weary to follow the sun any longer. Many leaves that were pristine green are now flecked with brown spots. Today, I’ll pull out the nippers and cut the sunflowers, laying them against a bare spot on the back berry fence, where the goldfinches can still find and enjoy their seeds. If it’s not adding to the beauty, it’s adding to the ugly, so out it comes. That will also give the peppers and roses more breathing room, and in this heat, even the plants appreciate some social distancing.

The sweet peas have been a fragrant delight!

Having never been successful before growing sweet peas, I was under the impression that like garden peas, they were a cool weather crop, so their continued blooms perfuming and decorating the potager during this heat have been a surprise. I expected them to be done mid-June, but they are still flowering. However, they are feeling the change in the air as well, evidenced by shorter stems and a stronger sense to procreate. I’ve found that a daily inspection is required because seed pods appear overnight. I’d like to keep them going a while longer before I allow some to set and ripen seed, so I’m snipping off faded flowers for a couple more weeks.

Butternut climbing an old ladder.

Before the cauliflower that was in this bed was harvested, one plant in the center was pulled and a baby butternut squash plant was inserted. By the time the rest of the cauliflower had all come out, the squash was getting larger and beginning to sprawl. Fortunately, an old ladder from the pole barn volunteered to serve, and the squash is merrily climbing twine to the top. Now I can plant lettuces around the edges. Notice the black web flat leaning against one of the triangle beds? The violas that were there finally succumbed to the heat, so they were removed and “Petra” purple basil plants and “Spicy Globe” basil took their places. Basil doesn’t mind the heat as long as it gets plenty of water, and now that the Japanese beetle population has dwindled (if I had a penny for every beetle I’ve drowned, I could play the market…or buy LOTS of seeds!) they should settle in happily. Since the basils were in a crowded flat on the “waiting bench” the web flat will provide a little protection from full sun and wind for a few days, until they adjust.

Browning lawns…even the grass is tired.

The daylilies’ demise always marks the beginning of the end to me. The gardens that were so brilliant in spring, so cheerful in early summer, are now more somber and softer. The perennials that provided an ever-changing picture are nearly all finished, and it’s up to the annuals to continue to provide any color. You may recall that last year, I purchased some “late” daylilies from a grower who lives here in Indiana, but further north, asking for her last daylilies to bloom in an attempt to lenghten my daylily season. Duh! Where was my brain? I should have found a grower south of me instead. My new daylilies are all blooming with my “old” last daylilies, of course, since her gardens are a week or two later than mine. Oh well, I like them even though they aren’t lengthening my season at all. Live and learn.

The Front Garden, late July

The Front Garden looks a bit weary, too, now that most of the coneflowers, daylilies and rudbeckia are finished. It’s a bit greener, because it gets watered more often than the other gardens, but my plan to get soaker hoses installed went awry with lots of other plans with isolation, and the result is that now I will have to attempt to remove the rust build-up on the windows and brick, or learn to live with it (doubtful…) A couple of the mums have returned from last fall’s plantings, but they are small. I’m not feeling an urge to venture out shopping for fall color. I think I’ll just live with what I’ve got, and maybe even plant out more of the annuals still on the “waiting bench.” Or, maybe stick in a squash plant or two, or some purple cabbages? Why not? No one will see it, but me….and maybe YOU!

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Lettuce Save Seed!

The pretty, but tiny flowers of lettuce.

I’ve been reading so many posts about saving seeds, and so many of them have mis-information that must be confusing to new gardeners especially. Admittedly, I don’t save many seeds now, but back in my homesteading days I did. It was much easier because I could put different crops in different fields, with little worry about cross-pollination of related plants. Now that there is only my little potager, the options are fewer and a bit more difficult. One crop I choose to save each year is the “Red Deer Tongue Lettuce,” given to me by a customer during my Farm Market Days (so we’re talking over 30 years ago.) That’s it in the photo above. Even the seed pods are a dark, dark purple. It’s a fast-growing, reliable lettuce and I love the color contrast it provides in the decorative early spring beds of the potager, and also in early salads as well.

In order to keep the seed “true” I must be sure that NO other lettuce is flowering at the same time as the “Red Deer Tongue. ” If other varieties begin to bolt, they are harvested immediately (before they flower!) so there can be no cross-pollination by the bees or other pollinators.

If you look carefully at the photo, between the lowest two flowers down an inch or so, you will see a tiny white “puff” like a miniature dandelion flower ready to be wished upon. Once you spot that one, you will likely see others. Those seed pods are ready to be harvested. I pick a dry, sunny day and simply pinch the pod off and drop it in an envelope, rubbing the pod a bit between my fingers as I go to open them so the seeds can spread apart in the envelope. That’s it! Of course, a label stating the variety and year harvested is essential.

I don’t need all the seed produced, so I pick some off and sprinkle them here and there in the potager’s interior border, or sometimes I package some in small coin envelopes over the winter for our garden club seed exchange. And since lettuce seed is a favorite food of the goldfinches, I let them help themselves, too.

As soon as the “Red Deer Tongue” is safely harvested, the bolted plants can be pulled, or left for the birds and the “Black Seeded Simpson” can be allowed to flower, so the same procedure can be followed again.

Because I grow so many varieties of vegetables, I don’t even try to save seed for anything else. The timing to prevent cross-pollination would make my eyes cross. I don’t have the 1,000 yards between types of peppers, squash, or tomatoes, etc. to prevent it (and that sometimes isn’t enough!) from happening. Luckily, I have no neighbors who garden much because insects will travel from yard to yard. In a more crowded environment, like apartments or suburbs, even if one grew only 1 type of tomato, the possibility that a neighbor is growing a different type is very likely. And because I’m trying to produce as much as possible, removing flowers to prevent cross-pollination would also reduce harvests. .

I am making a few changes in the way I garden. I’ve been through the “Golly, I want to grow everything!” stage. I’m moving toward fewer varieties of some things, choosing the ones that produce most and grow best in my location. Next year, I’m only growing “Green Arrow” peas as a spring/summer crop, so I can save seed from those, and only “Wando” peas as an autumn crop, so that will work, too. Only “French Breakfast” radishes will be planted, so those seeds can be saved, too, and they are both easily done.

But, I love growing squashes (both winter & summer), little pumpkins, many kinds of melons, and cucumbers and those all flower at the same time and can cross so there’s no chance of saving those seeds and getting the crop I want. Same with peppers and tomatoes, because I like different kinds for different uses. My space and effort is too precious for me to plant seeds only to get a lot of “mystery” squash that may or may not taste good or store well, or baskets of peppers that are too hot for me to use as I want. Some crops like carrots, beets, and chard must stay in the ground for two growing seasons to produce a crop of seeds and that messes with my crop rotation plan.

All in all, I’ll happily pay the professional seed companies to do it for me in most cases. I think in the long run, (because if properly stored a packet of seed can provide a crop for two, three, or sometimes even four years at the rate I plant…think eggplant, for instance, or the fact that I only plant 4-6 of each type of tomato, squash, or pepper, etc.) purchasing quality seeds actually saves money!

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Shade jobs

The Lavandins are in full bloom!

It’s hot! Even for me, so I’ve resorted to looking for jobs that can be done in the shade in mid-afternoon. The lavandins are blooming, and there was a sack of leftover ribbon from wand-making classes we used to hold on Lavender Days at my herb farm. So, armed with scissors and a stool, I ventured onto the “more than warm” stones of the Lavender Slope to do some harvesting.

Lavandins are a cross, L. x intermedia. The most widely-known one is probably “Grosso.” They have much longer stems than L. angustifolia (generally known as English lavender) and bloom slightly later. Their chemical make-up is also different, not as sweet or soothing, but still a very pleasant “lavender” scent over-all. My favorite for making really big, long wands was “Super,” but unfortunately I didn’t have any plants to bring home when we wold the farm. But, I do have “Abrialli” and “Grosso” so there was plenty of material to work with. Taking my small harvest to the shade of the Lady Cottage, I began folding stems and weaving the first wand. It took a while to remember how to do it, after all it’s been five years. The second one went a little faster, but I was already getting a bit fidgety. Sitting still is not one of my talents. To make it more challenging and interesting, I used two colors of ribbon on wand #3, and it also helped use up short lengths of ribbon so I could toss some empty bolts.

Four wands…my output for the 2020 season!

By wand #4, I’d decided that my need for a shade job was not THAT crucial. I was definitely recalling why I let my two more talented employees make all the wands we sold at the shop and on-line. They loved doing it; I didn’t. I called them and invited them to come pick all they wanted, along with the ribbon bag. One came yet that afternoon and sheared several plants! I retreated to the shade of the Cottage…and braided onions! Not as lovely a fragrance by any measure, but also not nearly as demanding in terms of concentration or patience, and a much speedier reward.

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Six on Saturday: July 18, 2020

How can it be Saturday again…already? It’s been another hot, humid, sometimes windy week. The daylilies are coming and going at rapid rate, the crops that like hot weather are coming along as long as they get water, and I’m beginning to search for any job that includes shade! Here’s my SOS, with some heat-lovers and maybe they will seem a bit unrelated, but they are yet another of my “firsts” traditions.

The first cucumbers of the year!
  1. The top variety is “Parisian,” first chosen because it was appropriate for a French potager, but continually grown because it is prolific, mild and tender. It’s an heirloom, so not spineless, but a quick rub with a towel removes the spines. “Parisian” is picked often at pinkie-finger size to make traditional French cornichons. The lower one is a pickler, “Calypso” which I grow for making sweet pickles. I’ve tried many other picklers, but “Calypso” wins over and over again, and it grows a smaller vine which fits my pea fencing perfectly.
The first of the tomatoes!

2. These are “Juliet,” a red grape-type tomato that produces like gangbusters on 6′ tall plants. The orange cherry-type are “Sun Sugar,” which were the first to ripen. There will be full-size tomatoes this coming week!

Pepper in a new color!

3. “Green Apple” Pepper is a newcomer to the potager, but it will be on the list again. I love the color, and the light, fruity flavor. It’s a full-sized “bell” pepper, and looks like it will be a good producer judging from the number of flowers and fruit set on young plants.

A basket of parsley!

4. It’s times like this that I wished I’d planted flat-leaf parsley instead of “Triple Curled” but I’m a sucker for that frilly, dark green in the potager and as a garnish. And yes, it takes an entire basket.

Scallions…well, almost…

5. Leftover “Candy” onion plants that never got planted and were still in a four-pack made a fine substitution. I just used the green leaves and the necks.

A handful of spearmint.

6. The spearmint has spread through the drainage hole in it’s pot on one side of the Lady Cottage and has filled the entire area under the bench on the other side of the door! Definitely time to harvest some (and to make some juleps…somehow I missed Derby Day!) Can you guess what I made? Bonus photo!

Tabouli! Always a must as soon as the first cucumbers and tomatoes come to the kitchen!

That’s my Six on Saturday! To find out what other gardeners are doing, growing, and making just visit The Propagator, who hosts this meme.

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Cutting Garden Update

Long-time readers may recall that the Cutting Garden was begun on a bull-dozed slope devoid of decent soil, after two dormant years in which even weeds failed to grow. The year the official CG began, the plants were basically those left from planting other garden areas, and even a couple of daylilies that needed moving were stuck in, even though they are not a good cut flower. The first plants to actually take hold and thrive were, of course, the black-eyed Susans quickly followed by “May Queen” shastas. Since that time, a bit more effort has gone into choosing plants specifically for the Cutting Garden. Here’s what’s looking good there today. 1) Yarrow, White

The old-time white yarrow is still a reliable favorite.

White is always a desirable color in a bouquet, bringing out the brightness of all other colors and making them all friends. This old-fashioned white yarrow (the variety preferred for medicinal use) is sturdy and a very easy to grow perennial that loves full sun and heat, and thrives in poor soil. It should love this location! I’ll let it expand a bit, but then do a little maintenance to keep it from being too aggressive. Definitely won’t let it go to seed.

Bonus pic: two flowers in one!

2) Gold Yarrow “Coronation Gold” was added this year, coming as plugs for a quicker start, although it is very easy from seed as long as one remembers that it takes light to germinate, so no seed covering except clear plastic. Another sturdy growing perennial, and flowers can also be dried for winter arrangements.

3) Also in the above photo, “Miss Jekyll White” nigella. I love nigella, or “Love in a Mist” and the blue variety is abundant in the potager’s interior border, but I really wanted a patch of white somewhere, and the Cutting Garden is the perfect spot. It’s growing in the partial shade of some taller sunflowers, and I hope it self-seeds and expands nicely. It’s an annual that prefers cool weather, although so far it’s doing fine despite our record heat and dryness.

Finally, getting some larkspur to grow.

4) I’ve sprinkled white larkspur seeds on the snow for three years, and admittedly some was very old seed, and once I failed to mix in a handful of potting soil, so I’m sure the birds saw it easily, the black seeds on white snow and made quick meals of it. Last year there were a few plants, which I allowed to self-seed, but I also added some new seed in late winter. Finally, there are some nice seedlings blooming here and there, although they are shorter than I’ve grown in other gardens. Probably the poor soil, which is improving by adding layers of newspaper covered with mulch each year, and this year it even got some compost from the bins! Larkspur is an annual, and can also be dried for winter use.

Seedlings of Rudbeckia “Chim Chimnee”

5) Frequent readers will recognize this flower, because I rave about it often. A half-hardy perennial, it’s wintered over all five years and does a good job of self-seeding as well. I dig up seedlings from the other gardens that are in the “wrong” spot and stick them in here and there in the Cutting Garden. I love the variety of shapes and colors that come from the self-seeded plants, and even the size of the flowers varies from 2″ to nearly 6″ across, which can make for some interesting bouquets.

Zinnia “Mighty Lion”

6) Zinnias are the workhorse of a Cutting Garden…reliable, strong straight stems and a range of colors that can’t be beat. This shaggy cactus form is “Mighty Lion”, a strong orange (looks a bit washed out in the photo, but trust me, it’s a brilliant orange) is one of my favorite annuals and so easy from seed.

Zinnia “Cresto”

7) Another zinnia that I wasn’t crazy about last year in the North Island, but it redeemed itself as a Cutting Garden plant, for the exact reasons I wasn’t happy with it in the North Island…too much variety in size, shape, and color of flowers and too tall and lanky. But those are good attributes for bouquet material. And, there was seed left, so in they went! There should have also been Zinnia “Queen Lime Orange” but the rabbits of course preferred the most expensive seed, and nipped off every one that went into the Cutting Garden, despite Liquid Fence!

My favorite salvia, “Blue Bedder”

8) Blue is complimentary to orange and yellow, so it adds a punch to most of my bouquets. A half-hardy perennial, most of my plants do return unless we have a horrendous winter as long as they have good drainage. Tall, straight spikes of dark blue add a vertical element to any bouquet, and if not picked, the hummingbirds and butterflies will visit often. Can get 4′ tall in good soil, but stay about 2-3 in the Cutting Garden. Also self-seeds well, usually in the path!

Verbena on a Stick!

9) Verbena bonariensis is a must-have for any Cutting Garden. Also a half-hardy perennial, so some plants will return but there will be dozens that have self-seeded. From a rosette of leaves, 3-4′ stalks arise with a cluster of dainty light purple flowers at the top. Two side stems eventually also form. They are a good plant to add visual height to a garden, without really interfering with the view. Long, straight, strong stems for cutting, and a butterfly favorite as well.

Aster “Matsumoto” Peach

10) This little flower is only 1 1/2-2″ across, and a dainty pale peach in color. Supposedly gets 3′ tall, but these are staying about 18″. Blame the poor soil. As you can see, each stem is a mini-bouqet, so it makes a good filler flower. An easy to grow annual, but I’ll have to see if once I cut the stem, that’s it, or maybe another stem will grow?

Feverfew “Double White”

11) Feverfew for the Cutting Garden, and also used in some of the other flower beds is “Double White.” So reliable, self-seeding, strong stems, attractive foliage, it is the perfect filler flower, the great supporting actress for other more showy blooms. I wouldn’t be without it even if I didn’t have a Cutting Garden, because it plays so well with others and looks tidy even when not in bloom.

Cosmos “Apricot Lemonade”

12) The new kid, Cosmos “Apricot Lemonade” is not exactly the color I was hoping for, and the flower size is only about 2″. It also seems to be a favorite of a variety of bugs, as you can see by petal damage, which is not conducive to good looks in a bouquet. Rather short stems as well, so this one may not be returning next year, unless something major happens. However, the foliage is lovely and it is serving good purpose in another garden (more in another post later on) and if I start seeing any butterflies enjoying it, it may have a return engagement. Cosmos is easy from seed, and there are many, many varieties that make a better cut flower than this one.

So that’s what’s blooming in the Cutting Garden right now. There are lots of sunflowers and some new celosias to come, and hopefully those lazy mums will actually flower this year! Watch for another update later on!

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The Alliums are invading!

The first of the alliums are in the Lady Cottage!

I’m growing more alliums than usual this year, but not quite as many shallots. It wasn’t my choice to grow fewer, but last year was so wet that many of the shallots began to rot before their tops even considered beginning to topple. And, many of them were triples in one skin, which don’t store well, so there weren’t as many to plant come fall. I experimented with dividing some of the triples to plant as separate starts, but the results of that weren’t good, so I won’t be doing that again. Nice, small solid, single bulbs are best, so that’s what I’ll be saving to plant again. I can tell that this year’s crop isn’t going to store exceptionally well either. The “wrapper” is very thin. The shallots were harvested about ten days ago, and allowed to cure on the drying rack in the Lady Cottage, where it’s dry and shaded. I should have been paying more attention, because in this extreme heat, the tops dried more quickly than usual, and they were almost too brittle to braid! It’s a good thing the garlic needed the rack, or I might have really missed that opportunity. But, there are now 7 braids hanging in the Cottage, with a few more small ones that will also be planted in fall, and a few that were obviously not going to keep that have already gone to the kitchen and will become shallot vinaigrette soon.

The alliums have taken over the Cottage!

Eight trays of garlic are on the rack, or propped on something that allows the air to circulate underneath. It also needs to cure out of the sunshine in a dry place for a couple of weeks, and then I’ll braid it as well. If you think it looks messy, you should have seen it when the flats covered the entire floor, before I got the trays of shallots outside to be braided.

Keen-eyed readers will see that it’s not all garlic. The white bulbs with the bright green tops on the floor are cipollini. They will only store for about 3 months, but they will be grilled long before that time period is over. The two flats of green leaves on the second (from top) shelf are “Candy” onions. The top flat on the right are white “Sterling” onions. Over the next week or so, all of these will be braided as well. Not nearly all the onions are ready. The “Red Torpedo” just went into the ground recently after some peas came out. They are not good storage onions, lasting only 2-3 months usually, but I love to cook with them, so they are grown last. Actually, some of the tops of the “Candy” and “Sterling” had not fallen over, but the necks were beginning to be soft, and I needed them to come out.

Making room for winter squash!

Succession planting is key to high productivity in the potager, and timing is important. It’s definitely time to plant the bush winter squash: Delicata, Honey Bear, Carnival. So, a few onions were pulled from strategic spots and seeds were planted. By the time the squashes need the room, the peas and remaining onions will be out, but planting the squash could be delayed no longer!

A tray of shallots too small to braid. Note the braid bottom left is all small singles that will be saved for planting in autumn. The braid above it is made of doubles and triples that will be eaten!

Meanwhile, the Lady Cottage has a decidedly allium “aroma” that unfortunately not even the bouquet of sweet peas can camouflage! The assorted braids will stay in the Cottage (which with its high ceiling and often open windows tends to be a bit cooler than the garage) until autumn, then they’ll be moved to the official allium rack to hang over winter, or until they are all used!

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